Many years ago, most of England was forested. Today, only a few counties have good forest cover (Surrey is one). But forest trees help prevent climate change, and also give homes for many types of native wildlife. The government tried to sell off the remaining state forests a few years ago, only a national petition changed their minds. David Cameron admitted that trying to sell off forests, was not one of the government’s better ideas.
The best way to help forests is to choose recycled paper and wood goods, and pick up your litter, if you are going through a walk in the forest. Also get involved with local tree-planting campaigns. You can create a tiny forest with very little land, which also make good outdoor classrooms. See make your garden safe for pets, to know toxic trees (and mulches) to avoid (fruit pips are toxic to pets, and yew and oak trees are toxic to horses).
A Year in the Woods is by Torbjørn Ekelund, the gifted Norwegian writer. After his beautiful debut book In Praise of Paths, now he decides he wants to leave the city after work and camp near a tiny pond in the forest. He has a family and busy life, so can’t just ‘go off on a trek’.
So once a month for a year, he goes off camping by himself in the woods. A tale of communing with nature in small rituals and reflection. He describes his changing relationships with the landscape as he monthly greets the same trees, rocks, streams and soil. And also observes minute signs of growth and decay around him. And gradually shifts his perspective on his role with the forest, and nature itself.
This author has been described as a modern-day Henry David Thoreau. If you’re not familiar, he wrote the classic book Walden, about his 2 years and 2 months living in semi-isolation by Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Born into a family that made pencils, he attended Harvard University and author Louisa May Alcott (who wrote ‘Little Women’) fondly remembers him teaching her as a child about the natural world. He was a kind man who after capturing a woodchuck who had chewed up most of his bean field, could not bring himself to kill it, so set it free. Thoreau died of TB, just 44.
Finding the Mother Tree is by scientist Suzanne Simard who shares the secrets of a lifetime, uncovering the startling truth about trees: their cooperation, healing capacity, memory, wisdom and sentience. Raised in the forests of British Columbia (where her family has lived for generations), Professor Simard was working in the forest service, when she first discovered how trees communicate underground through an immense web of fungi. Her groundbreaking findings were initially dismissed and even ridiculed, but are now firmly supported by the data. She also reveals how the complex cycle of forest life offers profound lessons on resilience and kinship.
Deer Man: Seven Years of Living in the Forest is the astonishing true account of one man’s quest to immerse himself in nature, and live with wild deer. Geoffroy Delorme never felt he fitted into the human world, and wished to escape to the forest. As he got older, he would disappear into the woods, drawn to the rhythms of animal life, away from the rules of a society he did not understand.
One night, an encounter with a deer changed his life, and he knew he wanted to live among them. In this book, he describes becoming a creature of the forest, working to blend in with deer (not disrupt them) and living without a tent or sleeping bag. Slowly, the deer allow him into their world. He witnesses births, deaths, loves, battles, ostracism and friendship over the cycles of their lives. And the beauty, pain, fear and joy of a life lived within nature, not seperate from it. In the seventh year, he meets a woman walking through the trees. He knows he can stay in the forest and die with his friends – or leave, and speak their truth to a human world that desperately needs to hear it.
Geoffroy also writes that badgers and foxes began to tolerate him, although he was not such close friends. During his time, he made friends with 43 different deer. Daguet was more interested than the others, and would stay around 20 metres away, and then one day he found the deer just 10 metres away, knowing ‘I had the privilege to be accepted by him’. Chévi became best friends with him, and would push him with his muzzle to say there was a daisy to eat. He also said they ran around playing ‘tag’ (the one behind would touch the hoof of the one in front, who becomes the one to chase the others’).
Geoffroy had to leave the forest, due to a forestry company chopping down the trees, to build a road (the herd had to find new territory). He writes ‘People complain that deer come into their gardens and eat their plants. But it is because their natural habitat is being destroyed. If they had enough to eat in the forest, they would stay there. The roe deer were generous and shared their territory with me, even though it was not my natural habitat’.
I understood at a very early age that in nature, I felt everything I should feel in church, but never did. Walking in the woods, I felt in touch with the universe, and with the spirit of the universe. Alice Walker
The Power of Trees is a book to deepen our understanding of ancient forests, re-affirm our dependence on trees, and celebrate their ability to survive human-caused climate change. Trees can survive without humans – but we can’t live without trees. Whatever happens to our planet, trees will return. They always do – even after ice ages, catastrophic fires, destructive storms and deforestation. It would be nice if we could be around, to see them flourish.
This book describes astonishing discoveries on how trees pass knowledge down to succeeding generations, and their ability to survive. The author is also unsparing in his criticism of those who wield economic and political power – who plant trees just for the sake of logging and ruthlessly exploit nature.
This is a love letter to the forest, and a passionate argument for protecting nature’s boundless diversity. Not only for the trees, but also for ourselves.
Trees have wisdom. So does Peter. He warns us that tree planting is usually a ‘giant PR operation’. Instead, the world needs the quiet magic of natural forest restoration. We must stand back and let them grow. Fred Pearce
About the Author
Peter Wohlleben runs a forest academy in Germany, and teaches adults and children about the many wonders of the forest. Translator Jane Billinghurst is a master gardener who lives in Washington (US) next to 2800 acres of community forest lands.
Forest bathing is the Japanese tradition of shinrin-yoku. It involves using nature to heal our relationship with the non-human world. You don’t always have to be in a forest to practice this technique, but it helps!
So what’s the difference between walking through a forest, and forest bathing? It’s the difference between a few deep breaths and a long meditation. For forest bathing, you switch off your phone (unless an emergency) and completely immerse yourself in your surroundings. Take long breaths and look at the rustle of the trees, listen to the birdsong and just be.
Sit quietly and watch squirrels scuttle up trees, study the colours of the changing leaves, and absorb the smell of the rich damp earth. Your Guide to Forest Bathing is by Amos Clifford, who shows you how to forest bathe in the forest or woodland, public park or just your own backyard. Use time in the woods as a form of meditation, a mindfulness in nature.
The Little Book of Forest Bathing is a guide to the simple act of being among trees. With their restorative properties and ability to heal and calm us, trees are the natural remedy to our high-speed lives. Discover the art of forest bathing (an ancient technique from Japan) with this book. It contains guidance on how to immerse yourself in the serenity of the forest, to set you free from the everyday, and rediscover your natural rhythm.